Fertile Turtle

The turtle carries the world on its back, a symbol of creation and motherhood. Turtles are a symbol of fertility and vitality. Turtles are known for totems from protection, which can be helpful in maintaining a pregnancy. In the Native American culture the turtle is the oldest symbol for Mother Earth.  In the Polynesian culture the turtle symbolized fertility and a long life. In the African culture the turtle originated ju ju and appears in fertility rites.

When we were trying to get pregnant, my friend would send me “fertile turtles.” The hope was that they would bring us luck every month in our journey to conceive. This is similar to “baby dust.” Wishing baby dust on a couple is a way of wishing them luck on conceiving.

Do we get to a point in our journey where we need luck? I think we get desperate for luck. Babies are a blessing, we want to be blessed. I wanted turtles, baby dust, prayers, yoga, meditation, diet, good vibes and essential oils. I would Google search everything. How can I get pregnant and how can I stay pregnant. I would even research fertility facts for my husband. You become obsessed. The obsession makes you feel like you are in control, and sets your mind to achieve pregnancy.

I still love turtles. My husband took me to the Florida Keys for a vacation before my hysterectomy. It was our last month to conceive. We went to a turtle hospital. It’s a rescue, rehab and release hospital. I have heard some cultures believe that the top of the turtle shell represents heaven, and the bottom of the shell represents the earth. Turtles move slowly and can live up to 150 years. Sea Turtles were apart of my rehab. We got to witness a release before our flight back home. The turtle was rehabilitated and on its way back home into the ocean, she swam away and never looked back. She was beautiful. Her name was Fiona. I hope Fiona lives a long life, and has many babies.

If you know a woman or couple going through the process of IVF, IUI, a medicated cycle or the two week wait, send them a gesture of hope. Send them your love, prayers and support. If they don’t want to talk about it, send them a little container of glitter that is a gesture of baby dust, or a bracelet with a little turtle on it. Pick something that is a daily reminder of positive love for the journey to have a family.

5 ways to cope when your friend is pregnant and you’re infertile

When your best friend, sister, or cousin is a “mom-to-be” how do you deal with the news, and 9 months of hoping everyone is sensitive to you, but attentive to her?

1. Communication. Here’s the deal, if your loved ones don’t know, they won’t understand, and they won’t be sensitive to you. Go to coffee, go to lunch, go for a walk, and talk about it! If you cannot bear to look at their growing belly, and ultrasound photos, ask them to please call you on the phone. You cannot ignore the growing baby bump in the room. You want your loved ones to understand your perspective. Everyone around you is celebrating, everyone is pregnant, everyone is blessed, and you are broken.

2. Relationship Boundaries. Heartbreak changes relationships. Jealousy and resentment may happen if there is no sensitivity. If you cannot look at your pregnant friend–don’t. If you cannot attend the baby shower because of the pain–don’t feel guilt or shame. If you need time to accept they will have this blessing and you won’t, and the relationship may take a step back–that’s okay. Time can heal most wounds. If you need to unfollow them on social media–hit the button. Tell them that the pregnancy will remind you of your own struggle.

3. Make moments count. The struggle is real, but you need to keep living. One of the best moments I experienced was when my best friend named me the godmother to her son. I am already a godmother to a few more amazing kids, but before my godson was baptized, my bestie asked me to hold him during the ceremony and hold him while he was getting holy water over his little head. My hysterectomy was 3 weeks after that. She knew I would never have this moment with my own children, and gave me her moment. She is the most loving, selfless person I know. I will never forget it. If you feel too emotional and heartbroken to accept this honor–tell your friend that you appreciate and love them, but its too heart breaking for you.

4. Don’t walk the baby aisle at Target. Looking at all the newborn baby clothes, cribs on display, bottles, nuks and baby monitors have made me cry. I always imagine what the theme would have been for my nursery. Would we have found out the gender if we became pregnant? Would it be pink or blue? Just stay away from all things “baby” if you can. You are happy for your friend’s baby registry, just sad for you. Keep hope alive that you will be able to buy that baby name book, gender neutral yellow sleepers, join a mom group, consider cloth diapers, and talk about breast feeding.

5. Pamper yourself. Go get a massage, a pedicure, a hair appointment. Go out for a coffee and read a good book. Get your mind off your sadness and sit in the sun. Even if you cannot go on a “babymoon,” take your spouse on a couples retreat. You may not be collecting pampers for your baby’s bottom, but you can pamper yourself. Love yourself first and your friends and family should understand. You can always buy your expecting friend a baby gift, and they can buy you a manicure. The support can go both ways.

To cope is to deal effectively with something difficult.

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes infertility

I had a plan for my life. I was going to be educated, successful, married and have children of my own. I was going to be a mother. God had different plans: I am educated, have a good job, on my second marriage, have a stepdaughter and I am infertile.

I don’t want my blog to sound negative, I just want it to be real. I do have an amazing life. I do wish I would have focused more on education and career, but my main focus was becoming a mother. I wanted to devote my life to my children. Lesson learned, you cannot put your focus on one area of your life, it may not go the way you plan. Life changes in a blink of an eye, and we have zero control. I have come to accept that.

I just assumed I wouldn’t have any problems getting pregnant. I wanted 4 kids at one point in my life. It’s the worst feeling in the world to tell your parents you won’t be making them grandparents. It was a very hard time for my parents, my dad still gives me looks of sympathy and love when he sees me with my baby nephew. They knew I deserved to be a mother. I would have been a damn good mom.

I personally feel like my god given right was taken from me, I had a choice: make the best of it or drown in it. I admit, there were days I couldn’t get out of bed. I was so depressed. However, I had to function with infertility. We made the choice that a hysterectomy was the best option for my disease, and we made the choice to accept the fact we were infertile.

It’s not an easy journey. I quit going to church, I didn’t want to go out in public, I lashed out with raw emotion to everyone. The worst of me came out. I am still going through this process. I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t believe it was going to be this hard. Maybe I am treading water? I am strong enough to keep my head above water for air, but I am so tired. I bet anyone who is going through this struggle, and is reading this are nodding their head, “yes! I am going through this and I understand!” We need to speak up so people can understand.

How do we deal with everyone around us who can get pregnant? I think everyone deals with that in their own way. Sadness comes to my mind the most. Its difficult going to baby showers, hard to see baby announcements on social media, and crushing when a family member or a friend is expecting. You are happy for them, but sad for you.

The big questions that come after you get married are always the best, especially when you are infertile. “When are you going to start a family?” I can’t start a family. “How many kids do you have?” None. I have a stepdaughter. “How many kids do you guys want?” I want 2-4, but I can’t have any. “Do you have kids?” No, I am unable to have kids.

Hard questions, honest answers. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad, but I need to be honest. The more honesty I bring out, the more this topic will be heard.

Whatever stage you are at in your journey, be honest and share it. Let others know that you want a family, but it’s a harder process for you and your spouse to achieve that family.

Photo above is by artist Lindsey Portugal. http://www.LindseyPortugal.com

Flawed Fertility

I wanted to start a blog to make a difference. I wanted to create a resource for women and couples who are struggling. Infertility is a taboo topic, and it’s hard to find an environment to express our emotions, trials and tribulations. I chose the word “flawed” because it means imperfection. We are human, and far from perfect. We need to be able to speak up and talk about our damages, blemishes and imperfections. Accepting imperfection and dealing with reality can be very difficult.

How do you deal with the unexpected? Infertility can be a death of a dream. When I was first trying to get pregnant, I never thought twice about infertility. I had seen doctors since I was a young teen, and they never thought I would have an issue. When the negative pregnancy tests started to happen as an adult, you start to wonder, “why am I different? what’s wrong with me?” Besides the consults with the doctors, I needed someone out of the medical field to talk about my struggles. I needed someone on my level, someone who understood what I was dealing with.

I started to do my own research. Google will scare the shit out of you! WebMD may not be your best option! I found my support group online, in my area. I reached out, and found myself at dinner with some lovely ladies a month later. They have been my greatest source of information and support. I highly recommend it. Everyone was on the same level, but with different situations. I learned more from this group of women than from any doctor I saw or any book I read. When I went and saw my OB doctor and requested a lab from her, she stated: “Someone has done their homework.” Yes, I have. I am knowledgeable, and ready to fight this. I lost my battle, but I gained many new friends and I thank one of those ladies in particular for being brave enough to share her journey and start that support group–Thanks, D.

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association exists to improve the lives of people living with infertility. Connecting and empowering men and women to find their voice. This website and social media page has many events for their mission. Every year they campaign infertility awareness week. Here is there website: http://www.resolve.org/

What is Reproductive Endocrinology? it’s a branch of medicine that identifies and treats infertility in both men and women. RE is a subspecialty of OB/GYN that trains physicians in reproductive medicine addressing hormonal functioning in the issue of infertility. We made the choice to see an RE after we had seen about 4 other doctors, OB doctors and Family Medicine doctors. I felt I needed to take this step, all of my other treatments had failed me. They took my entire history, every lab I had done to that point, sat down with me and we went over the plan. They did everything my OB doctor wouldn’t do. It was extremely helpful, If I would have known RE existed, i would have gone there after 12 months of failure. My support group told me about RE, and now I am telling you!

Self-blame. This will start to happen if you fail. I knew it was my fault. Here’s the thing–men and women can suffer from infertility, it isn’t just women alone. If you aren’t getting pregnant, maybe there is something going on with your spouse. I believe it’s important both of you get checked. My husband was more than supportive to get checked over and donate a sample for testing. How awkward, but he did it. This is also a man who already has a biological child with someone else, so he has been successful in the past. His testing was all normal. Thank you, James for doing something most men wouldn’t want to do, and being supportive in our journey. I am sorry I failed us, but you have a beautiful daughter, and you love me anyways. Thank you for trying to help me achieve my dream of becoming a mother.

Therapy. what is the first thing we think of when a therapist is brought up? “I am not crazy.” Infertility can make you feel crazy. I have never gone through a miscarriage, since I have never been pregnant, but I am sure that extreme loss can lead to emotional distress at a high level. My therapist really helped me get through the emotional despair. When we made the choice to have a hysterectomy, my husband came with me at one point, so we could go through the motions together. It was helpful to talk to someone with a different view point. Infertility can bring a lot of grief and a lot of pain, it’s okay to talk to someone about it. Religion may also be a very helpful type of therapy used. I know I prayed a lot during my time of need. I haven’t seen many churches talk about infertility or loss, but there are usually “prayer chains” that you can participate in.

You can find all the resources you need. If you are struggling, please use these tools: blogs, support groups, websites, doctors, therapists, family, friends and pets. We have five dogs. They will be written about later, you will love them!

Start a conversation with someone who is struggling. 💕

If you’d like to email me your story, I would love to hear it or even share it to help others. Please email me at BreesBlue2@aol.com

Support and Love: 6 things to never say to the infertile woman

Think before you speak. How can you best support someone you love who is struggling with infertility? What can you say, and how can you say it? This is a sensitive subject that needs to be handled with grace and love. The list below is things you should NOT say to someone who is struggling:

  1. “Just relax!” This phrase is the most common. Please don’t ever say this to someone who is trying to get pregnant. I know I have been guilty of this crime, and when I couldn’t get pregnant, it was the last words I ever wanted to hear. “If you just relax, you will get pregnant.” No! that is not true. Don’t sit on a throne of lies! We could be told to relax so getting pregnant doesn’t become an obsession, but tell that to someone who can’t get pregnant.
  2. “Don’t give up! It will happen.” This may be true, but sometimes it just won’t happen, you have to accept that, and be supportive. Infertility is diagnosed after 12 months of trying to have a baby without contraceptives. Please don’t tell me it will happen after 5 years of trying. Say what it really is: I am infertile, and I won’t be getting pregnant. For all of those brave women who are still trying, and not giving up hope, I pray you have success.
  3. “You can have my kids!” This one isn’t funny or a joke. I don’t want your kids, I want my own kids. Be happy and feel blessed that you were lucky enough to have your own kids. I do believe that being a parent is a very difficult job. I am sure you need a break, but don’t complain about your miracle. If you really want to give me your kids, I will gladly take them, but I am sure you wouldn’t be able to live one single day without them.
  4. “You could always adopt.” This phrase was the most overused phrased used when I knew my body couldn’t have a baby. Sure! you’re right! I could adopt! I don’t want to adopt. I want my own biological children. There are many children who do need good homes, and I love and appreciate all those couples who adopt. You are amazing people. We thought long and hard about adoption, I never felt compelled to even consider it. Some couples may not be in the frame of mind to even consider this, please be sensitive to offering this option. Adoption isn’t easy, it’s not like going to the store and buying a gallon of milk. Adoption takes time, patience and money! I personally know couples who have been successful with adoption, they have beautiful families, and I praise them for it. It was never an option for us.
  5. “It could be worse. You could have cancer.” Infertility is considered a disease. Cancer is terrible. They are both terrible diseases. I don’t wish either one on anybody. The fertility medication I was on is actually used in breast cancer patients to suppress estrogen. You can compare phrases: “It could be worse, your cancer diagnosis isn’t as bad as other types of cancer.” You would never tell somebody that. I would never sit down while someone is having chemo and say that to them. Act in that same manner with couples who are infertile. Women who go through the process of fertility treatments can get very sick. Hormones changes, vomiting, headaches, mood swings, fatigue, bloating. You are trying to find success around the disease. You don’t lose your hair, but you will want to pull it out in frustration. (I am in no way stating infertility is worse than cancer.)
  6. “Do nothing.” Ignoring someone who is suffering from infertility, loss of a child, or miscarriage is not the road to travel. Don’t ignore it; support and love them. You may not have the right words, but hug them, encourage them, hold them, and let them know that you care. Sometimes just listening can be the best therapy. If they are not ready to talk about it, just leave them a note that you are there for them. Don’t shove it all under the rug and pretend it’s not happening. You may not understand what they are going through, but you can be there to support.

Recognize that every couple may be going through something different. Assume nothing. Ask questions and listen. Cry with them, laugh with them, and be there for them. Infertility is more common than you think.

A Letter to My Husband: Flawed Fertility

To my husband:

I wanted to write an open letter of gratitude. I am flawed. We couldn’t get pregnant because of me. When we were going through fertility treatments, i was thankful that you already had a daughter of your own. I was already a failure, i couldn’t imagine failing someone who was childless. You did everything I asked of you, and you did it all out of love. I couldn’t ask for a better husband.

The physical, emotional and financial stress of infertility can ruin a marriage. We stayed the course the entire journey. We did everything we could do and made all of these choices together. I know if we would have wanted to adopt or to do IVF, we would have found a way to raise the money. You would have found a way for us to do it.

I was terrified that I would resent you for what you have–a biological child. Infertile couples are 3 times more likely to divorce. Unresolved grief can destroy a relationship. You came to therapy with me, prayed with me, came with me to my appointments, and held me as I cried. Typically, women are more upset about infertility than men. I was upset, and you stayed by my side. You were there through my insecurities, depression and stress.

My flawed fertility made us stronger. When we started dating, we had a plan for our life together; nothing has gone according to plan. I feel very honored and blessed to call you my husband. The morning of my hysterectomy, we prayed together. We said a prayer out loud, as we held hands. That day was my last pregnancy test. My last negative pregnancy test. I know the journey will be long, we will always have hard days, but it will be okay. I love you even more. I believe you came into my life to help me get through this loss.

We may not have a baby together, but we have been blessed. Thank you for sharing your life, your patience, your support, and your love. Thank you for sharing your daughter with me. Thank you for the five dogs we have. Thank you for building this life with me. Thank you for asking me to marry you.

Love Always,

Your Flawed Wife.

You’re not alone.

Infertility affects roughly 12 percent of people of reproductive age in the united states. 7.3 million in one area of the globe struggle to have a baby. The burden of infertility is regional, national and global. Both male and female factors can complicate conception. Infertility or loss can bring up emotions of profound grief.

the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The three steps in conception are ovulation, fertilization and implantation. I was only focused on those three steps, I didn’t know I was headed to those five stages. Grief is a noun that can be defined as deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death. Nobody died, but it felt like it. I was overwhelmed with anguish that I couldn’t get pregnant.

I was in denial for a long time, it took me 3 years to see a doctor who specialized in fertility. I was a young woman, I didn’t believe I would have problems getting pregnant. I had high hopes that I would get my two pink lines. The anger started when I was on fertility medication. I was so incredibly frustrated. I did everything I was supposed to do, I did it all right, and I would still fail. I guess I could compare it to studying your ass off for a final exam and getting every single question wrong. I am a woman who cannot reproduce. I was created and given a reproductive system to have children, and I couldn’t do it. what is there to be happy about?

The last three stages were not in the correct order. I was depressed from start to finish. I tried to stay positive and happy, but when your period comes, or you get that negative test every single month, it’s like someone dies every single month. You start to heal your wounds and then they are cut open again. When I would cry in my failure, I would tell my husband it feels like someone has died a tragic death every 3-4 weeks. Who can live like that? After I had my first surgery and was diagnosed with endometriosis, uterine fibroids and I already was treating my low progesterone levels, I started to bargain. I kept begging god to help me. I knew deep down that it wasn’t going to happen, but I had to try to beg and plead. I started to beg even more when I had a date for my hysterectomy. I cannot tell you when the acceptance part happens. It may still be happening. How do you accept this? How does a woman accept childlessness?

I look back on it now, and I am not even sure how I have survived. I know one thing for sure, I was never alone. I had amazing support from my husband and good friends, I have an amazing support group, I have a therapist, I have five dogs, and I have a motherly role in helping raise my stepdaughter. I was once told by a therapist that I had all the correct outlets and interventions to cope with my grief. Did she not see how tired I looked? Did she not see my eyes filling up with tears? Did she not see my heart breaking? I am a smart woman, but I am barely holding it together.

Your heart cannot physically break. I would need at least 10 new ones by now. Infertility and loss can feel like you are drowning and nobody will save you. You are tired, weak, and feel like you can’t breathe. Here is one secret to this healing process, you’re not alone. Find your support system and use it. Your support system is there for you in all your success and all your failures.

” I am half agony, half hope.” ~ Jane Austen

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring motherhood and the influence of mothers in society. For women suffering from infertility or loss, mother’s day can be a heart-breaking holiday. I dislike mother’s day. I wanted to write my first blog post on this day because I felt like it was an important way to share my journey. As infertile women, how are we supposed to cope on this holiday celebrating women who are successful in having children?

I have my own mother to honor on this day. When I found out I was never going to have children and my hysterectomy sealed the deal, I refused to celebrate this day. I explained to my mom that I would show my love for her on any other day and we can create a different tradition. As the loving mother she is, she agreed. My husband supports my choice; we treat the day as if it were any other Sunday. My stepdaughter goes and spends the day with her mother. Last year, my nephew was born. That is the only mother’s day I have cherished since my journey began. I believe God did that one on purpose.

Mom’s Day can either be a great day or a curse. There’s so many different ways to celebrate; brunches, breakfast in bed, church services dedicated to mothers, spring flowers, hallmark cards, handmade gifts, love and appreciation. I hear being a mommy is the best job in the world. Your body does what it was made to do, have children. For this, you are honored and praised. I hear it is also a hard job; you should be appreciated every day. I don’t want to spread the hate, I want to spread awareness. I am happy for all those couples who can have babies, I am just sad for myself. I would love to be in your place and be a mother. I never thought of mother’s day any differently until I was diagnosed with infertility. 

In my opinion, mothers come in all forms. I wish we were all celebrated on this one day. I believe some families do, but most don’t. I will never forget the year we were at a family gathering at my grandma’s house and all the moms in the room received a gift,I am a stepmom, but I still did not get one. Those little suggestions matter. Our hearts are already broken; please don’t make it worse. We are living with infertility and involuntary childlessness, be sensitive to this day and what it represents for us. Some of us are still raising children, even if we didn’t give birth to them. 

For all 6 million of you trying to cope with this day, you are either trying to get pregnant, trying to stay pregnant or waiting to adopt, I send my love and support to you. The lack of acknowledgement from society is at a huge loss. There are commercials, advertisements and social media posting all around us and there is no traditional way to handle this grief. 

My suggestion is to make this day about you and get through the day the best way you know how. Skip the activities like I do, contact a support group, stay busy, increase all the positives in your life, and share the day with other women who have the same struggles. Happy Mother’s Day to biological moms, adoptive moms, foster moms, stepmoms and pet moms. I hope you all find something special about this day where a lot of us can’t and I hope you are celebrated every day. 

If you would like, please share how you cope with this holiday. The isolation is real, and the grief can be a heavy burden. Please do not think you are alone.